Cornwall Councillors are refused a debate on the STP process – Lib Dems deny ‘internal row’

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Cornwall Councillors have been  refused a debate on the STP process.

Cllr Sue James had requested that Full Council have the chance for a debate on the NHS STP process and the Council’s role and strategic direction in it.

The NHS reforms are billed as a“Once in a generation opportunity to change the way we provide health and social care services for the people of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly” (introduction to the Shaping Our Future survey).

However health campaigners and opponents say it is management babble that is just dressing up  £264 million cuts to Cornwall’s NHS services –  most likely to include closing the precious Cottage Hospitals.

Lib Dem Cllr Sue James (St Just & Pendeen) requested an urgent debate at Cornwall Council’s next full council meeting on Jan 24th on the proposed changes but council officials have turned down the request which had the support of Cornwall Labour Councillors amongst others.

Sue James

Sue said last night “I am very disappointed. It’s taken since 2 Jan to decide. Senior staff & Councillors have influenced this. Sadly, the timing means it is too late for me to submit a motion as that would have to have been in by midday today and I was not told till this evening. Although fed up a bit tonight, I’ve decided not to keep quiet about it as only you the voters that can sack me!  I’m working on something but I cannot overturn the decision for 24th”

It is officially the Chair of the Council’s decision whether or no to allow the debate. The role is like the Speaker in the Commons. The current Chair is Sue’s Lib Dem colleague Ann Kerridge. 

The chair’s office issued Cllr James this officious reply to her demand for a debate “There is an established governance process in place for the Council to review the development of the STP and any decisions will go through the usual democratic processes. You can, of course, attend meetings of the Heath and Adult Social Care Overview and Scrutiny Sub-Committee established specifically to consider the STP and, with permission of the Chairman of that Sub-committee, raise any concerns and participate in the debate.”

Cllr James reacted to the reply by saying “So much for democracy! …But I am not beat yet!”

She continued

“I believe this would meet 2.2 of the constitution as there is considerable public interest and concern regarding this and a few of us as Councillors are concerned that the Chief Executive, other senior officer and a small number of Councillors are getting involved without a mandate or clear steer from Council. The Sustainability and Transformation Plans could be a huge opportunity or risk to the future of Health & Social Care in Cornwall, depending on your perspective. Equally, both Nationally and locally there appears confusion over whether we, as a Council, are stakeholders/ consultees within a Health Service driven process or whether we are partners.”

Adam Paynter

Keen to diffuse any notion of an internal row erupting within Cornwall’s Liberal Democrats, deputy leader of the council and Lib Dem colleague Adam Paynter spoke to CS this morning

“Yes I was consulted. There’s is certainly no row within the Lib Dems. Everybody is very concerned about the STP and the lack of funding to make it work. However the Chair’s view was that we are still very early on in the process and until we get along the line half an hour of us all saying how awful it is without being able to make a decision would be a waste of time and resources”

“We still don’t know any detail so it’s not worth it yet”

“This was not a political decision. Our legal and democratic services were consulted, so to the chief executive, it wasn’t just politicians. Sure,  we have some minor disagreements (within the Lib Dems) on how to go about opposing the government cuts – this is a very contentious issue, as can be seen at the event in Penzance but there is certainly no row”